BLACKFOOT – Tiffany Olsen, the Bingham County Planning and Development director, met with the county commissioners Monday morning to discuss an appeal presented regarding division rights transfers in the January Planning and Zoning meeting.

Kaleb Phelps requested the rights transfer for potential future development on his Riverside property and on some family-owned property.

During the planning and zoning meeting, Addie Jo Jackman presented the staff report on the application presented by Phelps, including a small conceptual plat for the family-owned property. Phelps was not required to present a plat for any of the properties at this point because the future of the property is outside of the scope of the application for rights transfers. Jackman presented all of the information regarding the request, including the applicant’s desire to potentially subdivide the property and develop it in the future.

Following the staff report in the P&Z meeting, the commission opened the floor to testimony. Nearly 20 people from the area near Phelps’ property waited patiently for their opportunity to provide their input. One by one, they spoke up regarding the potential growth of the area and their concerns about the impact of adding more residences in the area.

Many of those who provided testimony expressed concern about the impact on traffic and the community by potentially increasing the density of the neighborhood. Others felt it was important to note that it could be used for farm ground while others were concerned about the impact of the addition of nearly 40 new wells in the area. Some spoke about the need to re-drill their wells because they have gone dry, drilling as deep as 800 feet in some locations to reach the aquifer and installing a shaft in the well to prevent sand and dirt from dropping into the fresh water.

Olsen read summaries of each of the people’s concerns to the commissioners as she went through her staff report on the appeal application. She noted that the planning and zoning commission reminded those in attendance that they are only allowed to analyze the data regarding the rights transfer and they would not be taking any speculation of the future into account. It was added that they would be provided the same opportunity to speak at any future application process regarding potential development if or when Phelps moves on to the next stage of his plan.

Members of the community, 37 as claimed in the appeal provided by one member of the area in question, provided a formal appeal to the county commissioners regarding the transfer of the rights. Commissioner Mark Bair noted that they are still only dealing with the division rights transfer and would not be taking any other speculatory theories into account.

Olsen noted that the future development should not be discounted, but rather to understand that there will be an additional process if or when any future development is conducted, in which case the commissioners will be provided the opportunity to speak regarding any concerns or comments.

Commissioner Whitney Manwaring said he understands everyone’s concerns, but without any future plan presented, there is no way of knowing if or when Phelps will develop the ground, and noted that it is not solely the county that makes the decision as to whether the amount of development that could be presented would be approved by either P&Z, the county commissioners in office at the time, or the Health Department.

The Health Department provides input regarding the number of septic tanks placed in the same location during the application process. Historically, the Health Department has stated that they would prefer that all wastewater be handled by a treatment facility because of the number of septic systems in the area posing some risk to contamination of drinking water, assuming massive numbers of failures and other factors.

Manwaring said if this development never gets off the ground or is delayed for an unknown number of years, there is always the possibility of extensions of municipal services to that area, which could lead to the condition of connecting to a public service rather than drilling individual wells or installing septic systems.

The county commissioners voted to deny the appeal and upheld the decision made by the Planning and Zoning Commission. As chairman, Manwaring stated that there will be no further discussion on the topic at this time, citing Idaho Code to allow the appellant the opportunity to appeal again in the next 14 days if they wish to appeal the decision, up to and including their right to judicial review of the decision.